Just, my God, the genuine prettiness of the surrounding area. You think of Auschwitz, or Poland in general after the Nazis invaded, and you think of bleakness and dreariness. Dark dank sickly winter and snow and death. I took that picture five minutes away from the camp, and there is little doubt in my mind that it looked generally the same way 65 or 70 years ago. The same green grass and the same bright sunshine. Those things didn’t disappear in 1939 and magically regenerate in 1945.
It cracks the heart open to fully comprehend that things like the large-scale industrial genocide that happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau took place in the middle of a perfectly normal world like we saw on that bus ride. It didn’t happen in hell, or in some bleak desert, or any permanently winter-bound nightmare landscape where you can explain away these things more easily. It was just in the middle of this gorgeous countryside.